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Untitled (Buffaloes)

David Wojnarowicz (American, 1954–1992)

In 1988 artist and AIDS activist David Wojnarowicz inherited the darkroom of his good friend Peter Hujar, who had died from AIDS-related pneumonia a year earlier. Wojnarowicz made this picture shortly thereafter, a striking and unique example of photography’s memorializing function.

The image—a photo of a diorama at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC—shows buffalo being driven off the edge of a cliff. By isolating this scene, the artist creates a haunting meditation on an American symbol hurtling toward its death, a deeply personal commentary on life during the AIDS crisis. A barely discernible self-portrait of the artist, formed by his reflection in the diorama glass, floats just above the tumbling buffalo at center.

Object Details

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